Sunday, October 10, 2021

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on the first great commandment

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (b. December 3, 1940) served as Church Commissioner of Education from 1976-1980, as the president of BYU from 1980-1989, as a Seventy from 1989-1994, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles since 1994.
"Friends, in our present moment we find all manner of divisions and subdivisions, sets and subsets, digital tribes and political identities, with more than enough hostility to go around. Might we ask ourselves if a 'higher and holier' life, to use President Russell M. Nelson’s phrase, is something we could seek? When doing so, we would do well to remember that stunning period in the Book of Mormon in which those people asked and answered that question so affirmatively:

"'And it came to pass that there was no contention among all the people, in all the land … because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.

"'And there were no envyings, nor strifes, … nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.

"'There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.

"'And how blessed were they!' (4 Nephi 1:13, 15–18; emphasis added.)

"What is the key to this breakthrough in contented, happy living? It is embedded there in the text in one sentence: 'The love of God … did dwell in the hearts of the people.' When the love of God sets the tone for our own lives, for our relationships to each other and ultimately our feeling for all humankind, then old distinctions, limiting labels, and artificial divisions begin to pass away, and peace increases. That is precisely what happened in our Book of Mormon example. No longer were there Lamanites, or Jacobites, or Josephites, or Zoramites. There were no '-ites' at all. The people had taken on just one transcendent identity. They were all, it says, to be known as 'the children of Christ.'

"Of course, we are speaking here of the first great commandment given to the human family—to love God wholeheartedly, without reservation or compromise, that is, with all our heart, might, mind, and strength. (See Mark 12:30.) This love of God is the first great commandment in the universe. But the first great truth in the universe is that God loves us exactly that way—wholeheartedly, without reservation or compromise, with all of His heart, might, mind, and strength. And when those majestic forces from His heart and ours meet without restraint, there is a veritable explosion of spiritual, moral power. Then, as Teilhard de Chardin wrote, 'for [the] second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.'"

- Jeffrey R. Holland, "The Greatest Possession," General Conference October 2021, Saturday morning
Click here to read or view the full talk

We truly do live in a time of "all manner of divisions and subdivisions." Conflicts related to politics, racial differences, nationalities, belief systems - there are so many divisive issues. These are parallel to the "ites" of the Book of Mormon times. How can we confront, and correct, the anger and bitterness that accompany those divisions?

I have never heard someone propose a solution based on our spiritual focus. But clearly, ultimately, that is the only way to overcome all divisions. If we achieve true unity in Christ, if  "the love of God … did dwell in the hearts of the people", there will be no more divisions. What a truly blessed and happy situation that would be!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)

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